Saturday, July 27, 2019

The five children’s books every adult should read

Katherine Rundell's books include Rooftoppers, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner), The Wolf Wilder, The Explorer, and The Good Thieves. She grew up in Zimbabwe, Brussels, and London, and is currently a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Rundell begins each day with a cartwheel and believes that reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless. In her spare time, she enjoys walking on tightropes and trespassing on the rooftops of Oxford colleges.

At the Guardian, Rundell tagged five children’s books every adult should read, including:
One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson

In a world that prizes a pose of exhausted knowingness, children’s fiction allows itself the unsophisticated stance of awe. Eva Ibbotson escaped Vienna in 1934, after Hitler declared her mother’s writing illegal; her work is full of an unabashed astonishment at the sheer fact of existence. In One Dog and His Boy, Hal, a child with everything he could wish for except love and care, releases five dogs from the cruel Easy Pets agency. He and his friend Pippa and the small sea of dogs go on the run to his grandparents’ home.

On the way, each dog finds the place in which they can be themselves; the Pekingese Li-Chee, who once guarded the temples of monks, lying at the feet of a girl in a foster home; Francine the poodle, a natural comedian, performing in a travelling circus. It’s a story about finding your place and your people; about not pausing or doubting until you find them.

It’s also, like many of Ibbotson’s books, a shot across the bow at an increasingly consumerist world; Hal’s parents shower goods on him, “a gift pack from Hamley’s and another from Harrods … but in the whole of the house there was nothing that was alive”. It’s a sharp attack on the tide of acquisition that threatens to swamp us; to keep your neck above it, the book tells us, you must find something alive to love, be it beast or man, and hold on with both hands. Keep close, because the world will be cold, and frenetic and plastic, and only with each other will we make it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue